*SIGH* Aggression at 16 months? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 9 Old 03-17-2003, 07:15 AM - Thread Starter
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Ds has recently started being aggressive on purpose. He used to hit faces when he was just learning things, and we'd tell him 'gentle' and take his hand and show him how to touch gently or do the same to his face.

However, now, he will head-butt us or hit at his when he is frustrated. He will also smack his head or hit his head on something like a wall.

Sometimes I don't know what he wants, but most of the time I do and it is something he is not allowed. Don't take this the wrong way, we don't have a lot of 'rules' around here nor a lot of 'off-limits' things, but they are some.

His vocabulary is very limited...so I know that is a factor, but I see him acting this way most of the time when it's not a vocab. issue but a frustration at a limitation.

He's started that high-shrill scream now, too. Mostly when Dh & I are paying attention to eachother and not him (again...rare). Not ignoring him, but maybe just talking to eachother for a moment. He's usually really independent, but it's like suddenly he'll realize he's not the center of attention and he'll scream.

Someone told me it's "terrible two's" (yeah, I hate that term, too), but he seems too young, right?

So, here's what we've been trying:
-When he hits or head buts us - tell him it hurts us, to be gentle...
-When he smacks his head or hits it on something - I say "Don't hurt mama's baby..."
-When he screams we've tried covering our ears and trying to look sad/hurt saying "that's LOUD/That hurts my ears/Can you talk quiet..." OR ignoring him or saying something like, "I don't understand you when you talk that like"

I feel like giving him attention when he acts negative is going to only encourage it...but the aggression is getting over the top. I have even tried things I am against in theory...like putting him in his crib (i.e. like a time out) or yelling loudly "OUCH! THAT HURTS!" Dh will shout at him when he screams, "DS - YOU NEED TO TALK QUIETLY" this doesn't make sense to me kinda along the lines of parents who spank their kids when their kids hit...but nothing's working anyhow.

What do you do?

(Thanks for reading all of this...it's sort of abstract at this hour...)
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#2 of 9 Old 03-17-2003, 12:38 PM
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When he was a baby he babbled and gooed and you guys talked back and he thought you were haveing a great conversation. Then sometime around a year and a half they realize no one knows what they are talking about. Can you imagine the frustration? What if tommorow no one knew what you were saying?

Sometimes it is amazing how much the frustration goes away if you really try to understand him, and let him feel understood. Instead of "you can't have the scissors" say what you think he is trying to say- "'you would like to have the scissors". Repeat variations until he really knows you understand him- sometimes I a have just taken something away when they didn't really want to play with it they just wanted to put it back- "oh you want to put the scissors up on the shelf, here let me pick you up".

I have found that my kids are usually able to deal with the dissapointment of not getting something, but when they are feeling misunderstood then that is when the tantrums start. It is the difference between a child being a little sad and wanting me to hold or nurse them for a minute and haveing a hitting, sreaming, angry child.

When he screams to get your attention, just start working on appropriate ways to get you. He really doesn't know that people say excuse me (I know he doesn't talk too much, but you can start giving him the words now), or just wait for a pause in the conversation. Some moms teach their children just to come hold thier hand when they want to interrupt them. Figure out whatever works for you guys then you will have something to replace the screaming with.
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#3 of 9 Old 03-17-2003, 01:00 PM
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Oh I empathize with you. My dd is 17 months and for some time now she's been very angry very quickly about very little. It started with biting, which you can see coming and stop (just by holding her forhead away from what she's trying to bite), but now it's hitting and face grabbing - oh that hurts. Sometimes it's out of anger, and sometimes it's just out of excitement I think. I tell her no, that hurts me and that I don't want to play with her if she's going to hurt me. If she continues I put her down. At this point she's free to just walk away, but she always asks to come back up and I say well no hurting. Sometimes it works right away, other times it takes a couple tries. She also hits and pulls other kids' hair when they encroach on her territory. It's a constant challenge, but I think you just have to be patient and keep reminding what's not ok, and why. I feel like she gets better every day. Now she's perfecting the art of the ten second tantrum. She flops down on the floor screaming bloody murder. Then she promptly gets up and walks away like nothing happened. It's funny. GL!
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#4 of 9 Old 03-17-2003, 03:17 PM
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I completely sympathize!!! DS is also 16 months and has become fairly physically aggressive. Like yours, it's when he's frustrated about not getting something he wants or me/DH not doing something he wants. He frequently throws things (his blankie, whatever he's eating, the toy he's playing with), so we've worked out a system where he can throw anything he wants in the kitchen and a few specific items (felt cutouts) in any other part of the house. That helps a lot.

However, he has progressed to kicking and hitting, too. I've taken a few non-negotiable steps. First, if I see it coming (which you can with the throwing and hitting), I remind him not to. Then I get very close to him and try to figure out what's going on. "Are you done? Do you need help?" I start basic and try to work to the specific. When I figure it out, I always try to say something to acknowledge what's going on. "I know that you want to sit in my lap right now, but I'm washing the dishes," and give him an alternative, "Why don't you go get a ball and throw it in the kitchen while I finish. I'll be done very soon and then you can sit with me." It seems to help a lot. Also, DH always offers up his lap (or whatever) if possible. I also remind him that he can ask for help if he needs it, "Sebastian, you don't hit. You say 'help,' ok?" He responds fairly well to this because he can say and sign "help."

If he continues the behaviour (kicking during diaper changes is the WORST), he gets one chance. So if he kicks or hits we tell him, "You don't hit people. It hurts. You can't be around people when you hit." Then if he does it again, I immediately put him in his crib for about 1 min and leave the room. When I go back and get him I kiss and cuddle and quietly explain again that hitting hurts and he can't be around people when he behaves that way. Then I say something along the lines of "You can come and join us now. Please be gentle with people."

This was my sister's suggestion based on her experience when her son went through this. She said he learned very quickly that he would be removed from the family's presence with that kind of behaviour. We just started this about a week ago and the grandparents are in town just now, so I don't know how much it's working yet.

You mentioned language as a barrier and I completely agree. If you haven't tried it, you might want to introduce a few basic signs. "More," "Help," "Hungry" and "All Done" work wonders. I found Sign with Your Baby by Joseph Garcia to be fabulous.

Good luck and keep me posted. I'd love to hear more about what you're trying. "Trying" is certainly the right word, isn't it??? Grrrr.

ex-Californian, making my way on the East Coast with DS (10), DS (6) and WAHDH. Former extended BF'er, co-sleeper, and baby-wearer. Remembering how to garden.

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#5 of 9 Old 03-17-2003, 04:42 PM
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I have a suggestion regarding the screaming, although I haven't tried it yet myself (my 17 month ds hasn't begun screaming yet). I read about this concept in Dr. Sears, and maybe you've seen it. Dr. Sears suggests that when your child screams, to immediately go outside and set your child on the grass, concrete, driveway...whatever, and scream with your child. Do this a number of times. Eventually, when your child screams again in the home, talk about that you can scream only on the grass, or wherever, but not in the house. It supposedly makes the screaming more concrete for the child. It may not be easy if you live in a cold climate, or it's raining, or you have other children to tend to. But I liek the concept. Maybe this would work?

La Tia
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#6 of 9 Old 03-17-2003, 05:40 PM
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My ds is just turning 2 and we have been dealing with this for a little while now. Actually today he got made in the store at me because I would not let him have this huge balloon and he started grabbing my hands and then pushing them aeay. I could just see how fustrated and dissapointed he was about the whole situation.
When he starts screaming or not talking nice, he has a good vocabulary and is able to yell at his big sister when he is mad. I use a very soft and calm voice and tell him how we talk in the house. I try to make sure their is no excitement in my voice. It took practice for me. Also when he is upset and fustrated I do not ask him yes or no questions it just seems to aggrivate him more and the automatic answer is always no, he is mad and that is way of expressing it. I will suggest something we can do to calm him down, like lets go find your ball or where is the kitty hiding. Playdough is my life saver here it is something he likes to do and the feeling of it between his fingers really seems to help let loose all that fustration. When he strats to hit one of us,usually me I grab his hands and kiss them and say mommy likes touches like that. It is usually just the distraction that seems to work.
My biggest thing I use is reinforcing his positive behavior when I see him handle a dissapoint well I tell him how much I am happy to see him do that or when he is just being his sweet self I let him know how wonderful it is.
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#7 of 9 Old 03-17-2003, 08:44 PM
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Oh my almost 17 month old is exactly the same way. When I take something sharp away (he can get into toddler proofed drawers and cabinents with the ease of an adult! ACK!) he's understandably very frustrated and lashes out and hits... HARD!

Mallory's advice/methods have worked really well. Jake still hits and throws fits if he's not allowed to play with my pin cushion... but helping him feel understood has really gone a long way. And he understands so much, he just can't verbalize the words back to me. Baby sign language has helped a lot too.

When I'm taking scissors away or something else he's gotten into that could hurt him we try really hard not to say "Don't", but we use words like "Oooh, that's ouch!" And make the ouch sign. He usually gets that, and then instead of whisking the scissors away, if I sit and we "talk" about it for a minute, he handles it so much better.

"Oooh, Jake, that's ouch! Scissors are sharp and can hurt you."

I hold my hand out if he's not in a lashing mode and say, "Thank you" and he'll hand the object to me. If he knows he's doing something that I'll put a stop to, I have to be careful because he'll throw the object or run with it... or try to mess it all up (ie: dumping a box of needles on the floor) In that case I have to be quick and he'll throw himself on the floor extremely upset. So I sit and let him have his tantrum sometimes saying, "I know. I know you want this. It's so hard. I know." In a soft voice. When he's ready he'll sit up with quite a frown on his face and start jabbering, pointing to the scissors or whatever I've taken away. Then we "talk" about it. I'll show him how it's very sharp and make the "ouch" sign & point to him. He jabbers and talks for a while in a cross way until I say, "Let's put them away, okay?" Then he'll get up and toddle to the drawers where we put them away and lock the cabinent or shut the door to the sewing room or whatever. He's quite satisfied after this.

Anyway... it's frustrating, especially when he hits or gets frustrated like that with other children... but helping them to feel understood helps so much.

Hope that helps! Good luck!
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#8 of 9 Old 03-17-2003, 10:00 PM
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We deal with this at our house too and I agree with the previous posters about taking time to explain things and try to understand what he's trying to say.

When my little girl looks like she's about to explode about something I get right down to her level and look her straight in the eyes and try and engage her. I try to get her full attention and let her know that she has mine and we 'talk' about what she wants, or what she has that she shouldn't, etc. I've found that if I talk about things calmly and move slowly, instead of snatching desired objects away, it all works out better.

As far as head banging when angry, I pretty much try and ignore it but sometimes will say "why don't you hit a pillow, or the sofa instead"

They're such amazing little beings at this age .... it so wonderful how much they've changed and how they're learning to deal with the world around them and their own emotions.

This too, shall pass!

Korina 10.04.01
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#9 of 9 Old 03-17-2003, 10:42 PM - Thread Starter
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...I've tried a lot of your suggestions, but there are definitely some new ones! I hadn't tried trying to say what he might be thinking route, I will definitely try that.

He has learned 'no' from his point of view now. I'm excited about that! Last night he was fussing and fussing and fighting sleep and kept wanting something from his dresser so I would pick an item up and offer it to him and he'd shake his head 'no.' It's funny how I tried so hard not to tell him no, and he's learned it on his own! Now if he'd only learn to nod "yes."
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